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Black Romantic - catalogue

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 2002
Published by: The Studio Museum in Harlem
Year published: 2002
Number of pages: 128
ISBN: 0942949-23-4

image of Black Romantic - catalogue

Catalogue for Black Romantic, subtitled The Figurative Impulse in Contemporary African-American Art, an exhibition hosted by The Studio Museum in Harlem, April 25 - June 23, 2002. Featuring some 30 artists, Black Romantic was described by Lowery Stokes Sims, the Studio Museum’s Director, as an exhibition in which “elements of desire, dreams, determination, and romance particular to the black experience present a viewpoint that is oppositional to modernist conceptualization of blackness flavoured by exogenous exoticism, stereotype, caricature, and even abstractionist manipulation.”

The exhibition catalogue was a very substantial publication. All 30 artists were represented by a full-page reproduction of their work, monochrome or colour, as appropriate. Other reproductions appeared throughout the contextualising texts and interviews. The written portions of the catalogue included interviews with four of the exhibition’s artists. The catalogue takes seriously its task of discussing work that has traditionally been disparaged or ignored by significant sections of the gallery network. To this end, a range of considered voices and opinions are marshalled throughout these texts. Witness for example, Valerie Cassel:

“…Black Romanticism should not be dismissed as fictionalized nostalgia. Neither can it be categorically noted as the remnants of black empowerment and the effects of federal funding in disenfranchised urban centers. Black Romanticism, contemporarily speaking, engages aspects of a vernacularism reservoir that many Americans so desperately seek. It is a consumable, visual language designed and embraced to be, by its very nature, a radical act.”

Or this, from Kalefa Sanneh:

“If the works in Black Romantic constitute what might be called the commercial mainstream of contemporary black art, they are also descended from the storytelling tradition that has been central to African-American culture and literature. as Jonathan Knight puts it, “My paintings are allegorical in nature,” which is to say, they are representational without necessarily being mimetic. They use types to tell stories.”

Catalogue contents as follows:

Director’s Foreword, Lowery Stokes Sims
To Be Real, Thelma Golden
Black Romanticism: The Will Toward Imagistic Sovereignty, Lowery Stokes Sims
Who Will Speak for Us? A Utopian Romance Novelette, Valerie Cassel
Types and Tales: Reading Black Romantic, Kelefa Sanneh
We’ve Got a Love Jones, Franklin Sirmans
All Good: Interview with Alonzo Adams, LeRonn Brooks
Another Hero: Interview with Dean Mitchell, Regina L. Woods
Strong Men Keep Comin’: Interview with Kadir Nelson, Malik Gaines
Faux Real: Interview with Kehinde Wiley, Christine Y. Kim
Works in the Exhibition

The exhibition was reviewed by James Trainor, for Frieze, Issue 69, September 2002. Trainor’s review was sensitive, considered and discussed the exhibition with great clarity. Amongst his concluding comments, “The Studio Museum in Harlem is in an unenviable position. On the one hand it represents a community and a culture, while on the other it is committed to presenting the foremost achievements of African-American artists to a wider world. The museum has been criticized by some in the black community, especially in its own backyard, Harlem, for ignoring precisely this kind of art in favour of the highbrow avant-garde practices that will be accepted downtown. ‘Black Romantic’ seems to be an acknowledgement and a questioning of those criticisms, and deserves credit for raising the issue of which black artists are on the inside and which are on the outside, and why.”





Related people + view all 40

»  Philip Smallwood

Born, 1957 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA

»  Aj Smith

Born, 1952 in Jonestown, MS, USA

»  Toni L. Taylor

Born, 1958 in Mount Vernon, NY, USA

»  Hulbert Waldroup

Born, 1966 in Chicago, IL, USA

Related exhibitions

Related venues

»  Studio Museum in Harlem

New York, United States of America